History Changed Me

When my friend David mentioned he drove to Galena, Illinois, it got me thinking of General U.S. Grant, who lived there for a time. Funny I should know that, but then again, not really.

I never read much as a kid since role models growing up were few, my mother reading racy, romantic paperbacks, my dad, Micky Spillane.

Austen at best, was a town in Texas for all they knew.

I’m not criticizing them, since who were their role models? My mom’s dad was a busy baker, her mother a serial complainer. My dad’s mother a Polish domestic working for the very rich, her husband a professional drunk. Who had the chance to read…so many drinks, so little time.

But I’m digressing.

It changed for me when I saw Ken Burns’s 1991 film on the American Civil War, igniting my reading muscle, launching a love for books that has never ceased.

The Killer Angels (1974), a favorite novel, was the book inspiring Burns to make his award winning film. Historical fiction of the Battle of Gettysburg seen through the eyes of its generals, captures July, 1863, making you feel as if you too are standing on Little Round Top about to make that bayonet charge.

From there I read Bruce Catton, and bios on Lincoln, Grant and Robert E. Lee. My friend Ed, way ahead of me, recommended The Battle Cry of Freedom (1988), Princeton Professor James McPherson’s epic of the war, gleaning him the Pulitzer Prize for History in 1989.

I even read all of Shelby Foote, quite an undertaking, because my appetite to know became insatiable.

I learned, the reason Lincoln spoke at Gettysburg giving what became his most famous speech (272 words) written on a napkin while riding the train, was because the fallen were so numerous, about 51,000 on both sides including 11 generals, they had to be buried where they fell.

It wasn’t the best time for our noble, tormented 16th President either, even though technically, we won the battle though at great cost, since he had just buried his son Willie not long before who died at 11, of typhoid fever.

Learning of a leader’s humanity increased mine realizing how responsible Lincoln had to feel while eulogizing all those boys.

He could have negotiated with the south anytime during those four long years, but his passion to protect the Union he knew our ancestors fought so valiantly for, got the better of him. Lincoln didn’t want to be the president known for its end after Senators Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, staved off civil war sacrificing their own political careers, eleven years earlier.

No wonder when he died on Good Friday, 1865, he looked incredibly older than his 56 years.

Mr. Grant, in Galena, unhappily working at a tannery, had yet to know what awaited him in the poignant wings of war.

I love knowing all of this, magnifying the many mysteries of patriotism.

History not only educates, it emboldens, defines and enlightens reminding us, who we are as Americans.

Perhaps ours isn’t as old as the Greeks or Romans, but it’s illustrious just the same.

As a friend of mine likes to say, American History fucking rocks.



About Susannah Bianchi

I'm just a girl who likes to write slightly on slant. I've had a career in fashion, dabbled in film and to be honest, I don't like talking about myself. Now my posts are another matter so I will let them speak for themselves. My eBooks, A New York Diary, Model Behavior: Friends For Life and Notes From A Working Cat can be found on Amazon.com. Thanks.
This entry was posted in alcohol, Books, grace, History, humanity, internet, media, men, Politics, readng, violence, war, words, writing and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to History Changed Me

  1. skinnyuz2b says:

    Susannah, it’s amazing to me how many intelligent people fail to exercise their right to vote. And yet those same people are often among the most vocal protesting the results.
    Pookie and I are also history buffs, though nowhere near your level of knowledge. It’s just so fascinating. My love for history started in my late teens when I graduated to historical romance novels.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Right there with you on The Killer Angels. It’s the only novel I’ve read more than twice. In fact, we seem to have read many of the same books.Your friend is right – rock on!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. joanneolson says:

    Yet another excellent blog. The depth and breadth of your reading is amazing. In many ways it underscores the need to preserve recognition of our history, even if, at times some are offended. A nation like a person has to accept and understand both strengths and weaknesses. It is the only way to improve.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Our Founders weren’t perfect. George was a control freak. Adams a bit of a nut, and Jefferson, well, he’s in a category all by himself. You read about the past to understand the present. Like Ken Burns always says…you can’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been. Hear Hear!


  4. For some reason I have always had a fascination with old England. Their history goes back farther than ours and there are some interesting stories along the way. We may not have had kings but some of our administrations had their kinks.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. John would enjoy talking history with you. I would be happy to listen.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Eilene Lyon says:

    I love it when you wax rhapsodic about our history! You know I do. Thanks for a great read and reminder of some wonderful books to read.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Love the term wax. I do get a bit excited when I go there. Just here reading about the elections that will be added to our luscious lore. I’m sure John Quincy Adams is quite pleased the Democrats won the house, his home for 17 years. Just a hunch.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Was here thinking about John Quincy Adams. Have you read David McCullough’s The American Spirit? It kicks off with one of my favorite essays, Simon Willard’s Clock ending with another piece on JQA. I’ve read it 3 times. Small book. Fits snugly in your lap. I think you’d enjoy them. Your Friendly Librarian. 😊


  8. Once again, Grasshopper does not disappoint. History is not an easy subject to learn with all those dates and timelines at the forefront that usually had me daydreaming out of the nearest window, but throw me some personal facts about height and weight or fun facts about Lincoln writing his speech on a napkin, and I’m all ears. You make learning history ROCK!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. History was never my long suit. The closest I came to it was reading old comics and SF. However, what I have found is that my many years of Internet searching, reading, and browsing have endowed me with a certain amount of trivial information and some general information, all of which is dated now as history. I will not be the bookworm you are for history, however, I do love to read and now that I don’t work, I do find that interest returning as I open my Tablet to the Kindle app and begin…


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